Friday, January 31, 2014

Young Women Mother/Daughter Night

Me with some of the beautiful Young Women and leaders from Branch 3 on Ebeye.
The Young Women (YW) leaders from the Ebeye Branch 3 invited me to come to their Young Women Mother/Daughter night last Friday night.  Of course, they also asked me to be the main speaker!  I was truly excited as I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Young Women.  That was one of the hard things to leave back home when I came on my mission.  I worked with the YW in our Indian Lakes Ward back home and I love working with them.  I loved the leaders and I especially loved my group of Beehives.  I looked forward to this night to mingle with these sweet young ladies and their mothers.

The night began with a short talk from one of the Young Women.  She talked on knowledge and the importance of learning.  Then it was my turn to speak. I first talked about how I loved the YW Theme, expecially about how we are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us.  There is nothing more comforting to me than to know there is a Heavenly Father who loves ME and knows ME.   Here is the complete YW theme: 

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

Since it was the new year, I chose to talk about the 2014 Mutual Theme for the year:  "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness," Moroni 10:32.  I talked about each of the eight YW values (in red above), and how they related to Christ and to each of us. To think about that standard, i.e. Faith, and how it can help them come closer to the Savior.

When speaking with an interpreter (thanks, Thelma Ned) you can't go too in-depth about anything, but it was a wonderful time for me to review the Young Women theme and the Mutual theme and to think about all that our Heavenly Father has given to us in order to succeed here on this earth.  I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father who protects and comforts me daily, especially when I am so far from home, friends and family.  I am grateful that I have the ability to talk to him in prayer, and that I know that he listens and answers our prayers.  I know He sent me (and Elder Becker) here to the Marshall Islands to serve Him and to learn from these people.   It is especially heart warming to be among these sweet humble people and to learn from them what it truly is to be like Christ.  They are living examples to me each and every day that I am here. And I am so grateful for this experience.

After I was done talking, all the YW and some of the leaders performed a dance that Sister Mahit had taught them.  She is from the island of Vanuatu.  She taught them all the moves and they did a wonderful job performing for us.  They did an excellent job, and were beautiful and graceful as they went through all the moves.

After that, the mothers all received heart shaped hand-written notes from their daughters.  As the mothers each read their hearts, one by one, at the podium, a Young Women placed a flower in their hair over their ear.  The girls made the flowers out of pipe cleaners, and I even got one, too!  It was very touching to listen to the mothers speak so tenderly about their daughters.  You could feel of their love for one another. 

The night ended with food.  They don't just have refreshments, you get the full meal deal here.  They served up plates of rice, chicken and cole slaw along with cake and punch.

This was our "stage" I had to sit up here, as well as the leaders.  The Young Women on the left was the one who gave the talk. The background was a big blanket they hung up (if you look at it sideways you can make out a picture of a wolf and a couple of eagles).  On top of the blanket they pinned"on letters to spell out "Mothers N' Daughters".
YW  dancing to a song Sister Mahit taught them, from her home of Vanuatu.  They did a beautiful job and looked so beautiful dancing together!  Sister Mahit taught them well!

YW dancing, such graceful dancers!

The Young Women wrote messages on pink hearts and then they handed them out to all the mothers who were there.  They even made a few extras for people, like me, who were there without a daughter.  This is my heart. Rough translation: ""Charity never fail",  Mother, this is one motto that is great. We youth are so happy for you.  If it wasn't for you we wouldn't be here.  Thank you for your advice." (Sister Ned helped me translate this)

After all the hearts were passed out the mothers came up to the podium one by one.  Their daughter, or another YW,  then placed a flower behind their ear.  The mother then read her heart from her daughter.  She then shared some tender thoughts about her daughter and then bore her testimony.  It was very touching and sweet to see the deep love these mothers and daughers have for one another.

Some of the YW, and Sister Ned (2nd from the right) singing a song

Enjoying the food after the program.  They served up full plates of rice, chicken, cole slaw salad, fruit punch and a slice of cake!  A full meal deal!  You never go hungry when they serve food!

Some of the Young Women and their leaders

Mothers and children watching the program.  Even if it's for the mothers and daughters, the other kids come along too!

Some of the Branch 3 mothers and daughters

Some of the beautiful mothers

Sister Loeak and Sister Jesse with their daughters who just left for the mission field this week.  Sister Loeak, left center, will be serving in the Vanuatu Mission (where Sister Mahit is from!), and Sister Jesse, in the yellow, will be heading to Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.  Both of the girls were serving with the Young Women in the Ward until they left for the Provo MTC this week.  If you are in Salt Lake City, please look for Sister Jesse if you visit temple square!

Me with some of the beautiful Young Women

Me with our current Sister missionaries on Ebeye, Sister Butler and Sister Mahit.  Sister Butler just came a couple of weeks ago (and I love her already! so upbeat, happy, and eager to learn!)  and we just said goodbye to Sister Mahit yesterday as she is heading home to Vanuatu.  We will miss her, but wish her well.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Christmas Biit

I know, I know I am almost a month behind, but better late than never!  Ha, ha! 

Christmas this year was very different than what we had ever experienced.  Of course, both places celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  But, beyond that there aren't a whole lot of similarities.  This was the first year we had celebrated without ANY other family around.  That part was probably the hardest.  Skype just doesn't quite fill in the gap, but it helps.  However, since we were devoid of the usual trappings, i.e. snow, cold, presents, family, shopping, Christmas lights on the house, it didn't really feel like Christmas to us.  It just seemed like another day and another celebration with the Marshallese people.  Christmas on Ebeye Island is spent dancing and eating at the church ALL day long.  The day started at the church around 10:00 am. with a Devotional by the District Presidency.  They shared heartfelt testimonies and their thoughts on the Savior's birth and life.  Then, the dancing began, and it didn't stop until well past midnight!. Their Christmas Celebration, or Biit (pronounced Beat) consists of several dances and songs by various groups.  Each group is allotted about 45 minutes to perform.  The morning started out with the three Primary groups (red, yellow, and purple), followed by the Relief Society sisters.  After that the youth performed, then the Young single adults, and finally combined dances for each Branch.  And don't forget there are three groups for each of the categories!  One family group also performed, the Enos family,

Biit is a very important Christmas celebration for the Marshallese.  The people here started practicing around Halloween time. So this had been their focus for the past two months.  Each group had some kind of coordinated clothing, colored shirts or matching dresses.  Some of them performed musical skits about the Christmas story for the beginning of their performance, before moving on to the dancing.  All of them were accompanied on the keyboard with a singer or two at the microphone.  There were a few vocal only songs, thrown in for variety.  Most of them also had a conductor, or leader, guiding them through their steps with a whistle.  And believe you me, those whistles are LOUD inside the building, along with the loud keyboard music and singing!  Whew me! And might I say, they love their keyboard music with that never ending beat.   At the end of each segment as they are dancing they start throwing candy and bags of chips to the audience!  I think I got beaned a couple of times when I wasn't watching!  I learned fast to pay attention.  Some kids ended up with a  pretty good haul!  We really do need a larger building because it was wall to wall packed people and dancers.  And the air conditioner could not keep up.  I think the temperature was almost to the boiling stage before we broke for lunch! Seriously! I am not joking!  I was dripping, and I wasn't even dancing.  I did start practicing with one of the Relief Society groups, but ended up missing too much with other meetings.  I was kind of wishing I had stuck in there and learned all the dances.  (I said kind of).  I guess there is always next year!

Meals were provided for lunch and dinner so there was no need to leave to feed the family.  Sandwiches for lunch, and then a cooked meal with chicken and rice for dinner. Wow, what a day!  I thought there would be no presents that day, but I ended up with a couple of necklaces, a headband, and a bracelet given to me throughout the day by some of the members.  And I proudly wore them all day.  So sweet.  I will bring those home for sure!

one of the Primary groups dancing 
another Primary group dancing

Enos family dancing

one of the Relief Society groups

vocals and keyboard for the dancers

packed crowd watching
our view from the stand

our MC!

 After spending all day inside the church, the dancing commenced after the sun went down, and after some nourishment (chicken and rice) for dinner.  The building became unbearably hot, so it was nice to go outside and watch the dances.  The youth, young single adults, and Branch dances were all outside on the concrete as those groups were too large to be inside.  The dances continued on well past midnight, but we didn't last that long.

cute girls wanting their picture taken

Youth dancing

Sister Whitney with the girls

girls posing for a picture, and they LOVE to pose!

Young single adults and missionaries dancing

Missionaries dancing away, again!

gathering for the Branch dance outside

Branch 1 starting their group dance

Conductor, leading with the whistle

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Water - our lifeline

When we first arrived in October it was quite common to have a good drenching with some rainstorms.  When the heavens opened up and the rains came, it was instant flood!   It came down hard and fast, and then nothing.  Then it might do it all over again a few minutes or an hour later.  When the dark clouds roll in, watch out!  The rain storms are quite fun if you don't mind getting wet!  Large storage tanks are everywhere on the island that catch the fresh rain water. The toilets, however, run on a separate system as they are hooked up to the ocean's salt water.  So, if we run out of fresh water, we will still have water for the toilets.
Now, two months later, we are in dire straights as the fresh water is getting low in our storage tanks.  Apparently in the winter, the wind blows a lot stronger, so the clouds don't have as much of  a chance to gather, and they just roll on over the island.  The city does have extra water, but that must be collected individually by small containers or businesses can buy it and have it delivered by truck.  For several days this month we have had no running water, so we conserved and did the best we could with what little water we had for cooking, drinking and washing.  We were getting by on sponge baths, until some of the church members found out.  That night they delivered several large buckets of water to our place.  We finally took a shower that night! What angels!  I will bless them forever (that's just the kind of people they are here, so kind).  The apartments where we live get a certain allocation of water and apparently some of the tenants were using up more than their share so we were running out.  So last week, the owners decided to ration the water to all tenants.  Right now, until whenever, we have running water from 6 to 9 am and from 6 to 9 pm every day! (unless it runs out first!)  This morning we went to take our showers just after 8 am and it was already dry!  Boo!  Time for another bucket shower!  Our days are now planned around our water supply!
flooding right around the corner from us

plowing through the intersection right outside our place

flooding in front of the store

People lining up to fill their containers with water

heading home with his water supply

A couple of the buckets of water that were brought to us!

supply of cold filtered water in the fridge

Bucket and cup I use for my showers when the water is turned off.  I have become quite adept at taking a complete shower with only one bucket of water, equal to about 2 gallons. 
 Our dependence upon water is actually for everything on this island, from fishing, to entertainment (swimming and playing in the waves), to bringing us all our food and goods.  We have no airport here, so anything going in or out must come in by boat.  People, small packages and mail are flown to Kwajalein, and then transferred over on the ferry.  Everything else from cars, furniture, canned goods, produce, building supplies, and you name it, all are brought in by the big freighters.  It's a VERY welcome sight to see a big freighter come in to the dock every two weeks or so.  By the time the ship arrives we are usually in sore need of produce and other items.  Around Christmas time we ran out of eggs for two or three weeks.  It's quite common to run out of produce, eggs or other fresh items long before the next shipment comes.  We always have canned goods on the shelf, but it's so nice to have the fresh stuff!
kids swimming in the lagoon
Small boats for fishing or for trips to the outer islands

Freighter unloading
Freighter bringing all our goods
boats in the lagoon

The ferry that takes us to Kwajalein

 Almost every Saturday since we have been here they have had at least one baptism.  The service usually starts at 6 or 6:30pm where we all walk down to the lagoon where they perform the baptisms.  I don't think they realize how lucky they are to have such a killer setting for their baptism.  I don't think I will ever tire of this beautiful scene.

Amazing setting for a baptism

Baptism in the lagoon
 All uses of water on the island don't necessarily have to be functional.  There are some soothing qualities in watching the waves.  And the ocean is just fun to watch and track as the tides change.  For those of you who know Mike, he has always been mesmerized by the ocean.  He has been known to walk the beach for hours when we have visited the ocean, whether in Oregon or Mexico or New Jersey.   Here it's no different.  Whenever we walk along the ocean side of the road we always have to stop for a few minutes so he can watch the waves.  I don't think he will ever get tired of doing that. 
watching the waves with a couple of boys imitating him

Mike mesmerized by the ocean waves

great view while walking down the road

Beach Park, the cleanest beach on Ebeye, and source of a few shells
And finally, a scenic view for the sunset, on the lagoon side